Updated: Dec 28, 2019
By Nandini Rao
Contributing Author for Spark Igniting Minds
Relationships are about discovering what’s possible in being human beyond the places where, unknowingly or knowingly, we might limit ourselves. - David Cunningham
This is a story that took place in the latter half of the last century.
Sakhi grew up to be a confident girl. Her mother, a homemaker, used part of her time of the day (mostly in the absence of her husband) to teach stitching and embroidery to her neighbors for a fee. She was a proud woman and did not want to ask more money from her already financially burdened husband.
With such a strong and independent idol of a woman in her mother, Sakhi grew up with a mindset which emphasized that women needed to be strong, independent and inspirational. While she was developing into a youngster with these qualities, certain fundamental questions gnawed her conscience.
"When my mother is doing her best to ease the financial burden of my father, why doesn’t my father appreciate her efforts? Why does he resent her earnings, however meager they are?"
"My father often tells people that he will bring up daughters to be as strong and confident as sons; then why does he fight with my mother, when she is earning money (the man’s prerogative) to ease his burden?"
Many times, Sakhi voiced these questions out loud to her mother and her father. Her mother would shut her up saying – that is how men are! And her father would shut her up saying – look what an impudent daughter I have raised that she dares to question her parents’ behavior.
Eventually, Sakhi completed her studies and found a job for herself. Soon she appeared for her first interview and she got the job! Reveling in her newly found independence, Sakhi was happy to be finally strong enough to break the stereotypical mold of a girl; proud to be financially independent to take care of her own needs and save something up. She was also basking in the glory of praises of her friends and relatives of what an inspiration she was to other girls. Oddly enough, her father too was extremely proud of his strong, independent and ideal daughter! Sakhi wondered why her father gloated over her for the very same qualities for which he loathed his wife. Questions, questions, and questions! There were so many questions, yet no answer that could satisfy Sakhi.
When she was engaged to Rituraj, she made it clear to him, that after marriage she would not pursue a career out of the home but would supplement his income by doing something from home. Rituraj was not very serious about the future, and so he agreed.
Sakhi put across this request to Rituraj because she knew that she can either run the home perfectly or pursue a career. She couldn’t manage both. She was afraid that if she attempted it, one of them would end up disastrous!
FAST FORWARD 15 YEARS!
Sakhi was now a married woman and a mother of a 7-year-old daughter.
Like every middle-class woman, struggling to make ends meets in Mumbai, Sakhi took up work as a secretary to the top boss in a growing private company. Her attempts to supplementing the income from home and being a homemaker for the rest of the time were dashed to the ground. 4 years after she wed Rituraj, he insisted that she should be going out to pursue a proper career, partly because she did not get along well with his parents and partly because a little extra income in the household kitty would not hurt. Much to her chagrin and against her own will, she qualified herself with secretarial skills and started to work in the office.
Ever since the day she had begun to work, her in-laws made her feel guilty about leaving the child at a daycare center for children, guilty about her not being at home during the daytime to help her aging in-laws; guilty about not getting completely involved in household matters; guilty about not being a good daughter-in-law of the household.
On the other hand, her husband would not hear from her about giving up her job and fulfilling those matters which were important to his parents. On his part, he spared no effort to make her feel guilty for not pursuing a career to secure their future.
The son was not willing to confront his parents, neither the parents were willing to confront the son in this matter. It worked for everybody in the house except her., Sakhi was torn between the two interests and ended up working late into the night. She was doing the utmost that could be done to satisfy her in-laws and wake up early in the morning to face the day. She related to her responsibilities as a burden forced upon her. She was completely caught in the grind; not a moment for herself; not a moment for her parents nor the satisfaction of fulfilling relationship - neither with her husband nor with her in-laws.
Years of being resigned to this fate resulted in a complete relationship breakdown between Sakhi and her in-laws, who blamed her for not being a good daughter in law; and between Sakhi and Rituraj, who blamed her for the lack of peace at home.
Rituraj, who considered his parent's words to be the Gospel, was let down by Sakhi when she failed to match up to the expectations of his parents. This attitude did nothing to keep the relationship together and it drove them far